From Seattle to Spokane, Everett to Yakima, Washington has thousands of miles of roadways. They’ll take you from the capital in Olympia to the apple orchards of Yakima, to the base of Mount Baker, into the Pacific Northwest rainforests and along the shores of Puget Sound. They’re used by over 5 million licensed drivers, who each average over 8,300 miles a year. Along the way, they’re involved in thousands of traffic accidents, including many that result in serious injury or death. Wherever you live and drive in the Evergreen State, carrying adequate car insurance is both a legal requirement and commonsense protection. This is your guide to Washington’s basic vehicle insurance requirements and laws.
Washington state law requires you to carry a minimum amount of car insurance. Failure to do so can result in severe penalties that may include monetary fines. Washington has a tort system, which means that if you are found to be at fault in a car accident, you can be sued for actual damages (expenses associated with property damage and medical costs), economic damages (lost wages and earning capacity) and emotional and physical pain and suffering.
The bare minimum car insurance requirement for Washington drivers is:
$25,000 bodily injury per person per accident
$50,000 bodily injury for all persons per accident
Underinsured and personal injury protection coverages can be rejected in writing if you prefer not to purchase them. Washington does not require you to carry additional coverage such as Collision and Comprehensive. However, if you own property or other valuable assets, supplementing the minimum requirements can help you protect yourself from monetary loss.
Penalties for Failure to Carry Washington Auto Insurance
Washington requires you to carry minimum liability insurance or proof of financial responsibility and provide proof if a law enforcement officer asks to see it. Driving without the required coverage is a traffic infraction punishable by a minimum fine of $250 plus additional fees and assessments that bring the total to about $450 for a first offense. If you are at fault in a traffic accident and have no insurance, you can be held responsible for collision damages and medical costs, and your license can be suspended for 3 years from the date of the collision.
Washington Car Insurance Premiums
Vehicle insurance premiums are regulated by the Washington State Office of the Insurance Commissioner. Insurance companies are allowed to charge premiums and award discounts based on a number of factors that can include:
The type of car you are insuring
Prior auto insurance coverage
How much you drive
Your driving record
Your marital status
Your geographic location
How long you’ve been driving
Whether or not you use your car for business
Washington also allows insurers to consider your credit rating to determine your premium.
How to Get the Cheapest Washington Car Insurance Policy
You may be able to lower the cost of your premiums in the following ways:
Ask about available discounts for good driving habits, anti-theft devices, multiple cars on one policy, bundling your car insurance with your homeowners or renters policy, automatic or online payments and driving a hybrid or electric car
Compare quotes from a variety of providers on this website
Eliminate unnecessary coverage
Check to see if you qualify for any low-cost auto insurance program your state may offer
New Washington Driving Laws
Laws regarding driving and car insurance can change frequently. It is your responsibility to stay current about the legal requirements in Washington. The following laws have recently been enacted in Washington and may affect your insurance coverage decisions.
Washington has a ban on texting and the use of handheld phones for all drivers
Washington bans the use of all cell phones (handheld and hands-free) for novice drivers.
Effective January 2014, Washington began a statewide sobriety pilot program in Thurston, Chelan and Spokane counties. Second-time DUI offenders can be forced to wear a bracelet that measures blood alcohol through their sweat or to take Breathalyzer tests twice a day.